In a couple of weeks time the whole of the UK will go to the polls to vote for regional Police and Crime Commissioners, an office that I had never heard of until quite recently when I started seeing advertisements going up all over the place telling me that the local hoodlums really do not want me to go out and vote on 15th November.
It turns out that the PCC is a new post created by our wonderful coalition government and was, conveniently, in both the respective parties' manifestos at the last election. It certainly has the air of a Con-Lib agreement, with an emphasis on cracking down on crime (Tory) while at the same time insisting that it should be chosen by a democratic vote (Lib Dem).
According to the Home Office website,
Police and crime commissioners (PCCs) will ensure the policing needs of their communities are met as effectively as possible, bringing communities closer to the police, building confidence in the system and restoring trust.
It then goes on to explain how the PCC will make decisions about law enforcement and provide a voice for the public regarding the way policing is done. Of particular interest is the section on impartiality in the description of what the role of the PCC will be, which states that "PCCs are there to serve the people, not a political party or any one section of their electorate." I believe that this last point is essential, particularly at a time when the police are often viewed as being on the side of authority against the people.
This being the case, I was disappointed to see in the local rag a few days ago that the candidates for which I will be able to vote include one conservative, one labour, one liberal democrat and one UKIP. Looking further afield I see that this political spectrum is typical in most areas. So much for not serving a political party or any one section of the electorate. There is also one independent who, in addition to having knowledge and experience of the law and justice system, appears also to have the same concern as I do that the position must be genuinely independent. However, his electoral statement gives no indication of what his plans are should he win and, while his independence makes him the candidate for whom I am most inclined to vote, I am left wondering why I should bother.
There will be a debate with the five candidates for Greater Manchester next Tuesday and perhaps this will make clearer the positions of each. Some people may question whether we need this new office at all but this is not the question at hand. On Friday 16th November there will be new Police and Crime Commissioners up and down the country who will have real power over the running of the police forces. Call me naive but I would like to think that we still have a chance to prevent these from becoming yet more pieces in the grand political game.